Posted by: Lisa Hill | May 8, 2011

Sensational Snippets: The Prowler, by David Malouf

David Malouf’s Complete Stories is a treasure trove of quirky, amusing, sometimes violent and sometimes dreamily intimate short stories that won for him the inaugural Australia-Asia Prize in 2008.

For this month’s Sensational Snippet, I have chosen an excerpt from The Prowler:

Ours is one of the older suburbs, no longer fashionable as it was forty or fifty years ago but still retaining a certain desirable elegance, and still, with its expansive gardens and tree-lined avenues, a place where a mode of life can be observed that has not yet surrendered to the patios, clothes-hoists and drive-in supermarkets of the Estates. Houses here are of painted weatherboard in the colonial style: with gables, turrets, pepperpot domes, bull’s eye windows of emblazoned glass, verandahs, wrought-iron railings, and venetians that hum in a storm.  Bougainvillea and Cardinal Creeper grow thick over outhouse roofs and the lattice-work that keeps out the westering sun.  Lawns planted with old-fashioned natives like hoop-pine and bunya, along with the deodars and Douglas firs of empire, make secluded spaces, some of them close to parklike, where willy-wagtails feed and fat grasshoppers wobble in flight above the cannas.  It’s a quiet area.  Lawn sprinklers weave elaborate loops and figures-of-eight; kids on bicycles hiss over the gravel; a station-wagon driven by a young housewife rolls along under the bouhineas, delivering a kindergarten group or a riot of small footballers.  Deep in a garden somewhere, a splash, then laughter as children lark about in a backyard pool.  That’s the nearest you might come to a disturbance of the heavy stillness.  At night, a tennis court, one wire wall thick with cestrum, suddenly lights up in the sub-tropical dusk and there will be, for an hour or two, the leisurely thwack-thwack of  a ball.

So that the assaults, when they broke out, seemed especially shocking.

David Malouf, ‘The Prowler’ in Child’s Play, The Complete Stories, Knopf, 2007, p 489-90) (Kingston Library)


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